THE NEWBERG REPORT — OCTOBER 26, 2006

Just think: If Michael Young didn’t triple on July 11, we might have gotten Game Four in last night.

There was one Game Four that took place on Wednesday, however, 5,944 miles away from Busch Stadium. The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters won their third straight over the Chunichi Dragons on Wednesday, taking a three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven Japan Series. The Fighters try today to seal the title at home, and as a result Trey Hillman could be hours away from becoming available to talk to the Rangers about their managerial opening. If Chunichi takes Game Five, the series would resume on Saturday at the Dragons’ home field.

Jon Daniels acknowledges that if the Fighters win the Series, further obligations may prevent Hillman from being able to travel to the United States anytime soon, and as a result he might have to interview with the Rangers by phone.

To recap the CBA changes that I discussed in news flashes on Tuesday night, draft pick compensation has survived. The loss of a Type A free agent whom a club offers arbitration to still nets that team two picks (a late first-rounder or early second-rounder forfeited by the signing club, plus a sandwich pick between rounds one and two). The loss of a Type B player (which in 2007 will be one ranked at his position between the 21st and 40th percentile, rather than 31st-50th) now results in sandwich pick compensation but no forfeiture of a pick by the signing team, which will help those players’ marketability. The Type C classification no longer exists.

So for 2006, the Rangers stand to benefit just as they would have under the old CBA in terms of draft pick compensation, unless there’s an issue regarding a player who would have been a Type C — but it’s unlikely that Texas would have offered arbitration to any such player.

Gary Matthews Jr., Carlos Lee, Vicente Padilla, Mark DeRosa, and Rod Barajas all stand to be Type A’s or Type B’s, something we should learn officially soon. It should be close to a lock that Texas will offer arbitration to the first four, while Barajas and Adam Eaton (who could be a Type C) are less likely.

The Lee situation bears the following watch: should the Cubs sign him, Texas would get pick around 30-35 and a pick around 45-50; should Houston, the other team most often mentioned in connection with Lee, sign the outfielder, the Rangers would get the 17th pick and a pick around 30-35. Big difference.

The period of time before a player must be added to a 40-man roster for purposes of Rule 5 Draft protection has been changed from three or four years from the player’s first minor league season to four or five years from year of signing — at least that’s how the MLB press release reads. While there’s no question that this means no roster addition next month for John Danks, Thomas Diamond, and Ben Harrison, I’m still not sure about Emerson Frostad. If the trigger date has in fact been changed to the signing date rather than the player’s first pro season, then Frostad (who signed in August 2003) will be Rule 5-eligible this winter. If it remains the effective season of the player’s first pro contract, the Frostad (whose first contract was for 2004) won’t be eligible until a year from now.

While for most players, the only real impact will be that their options won’t kick in until a year later, some — like Danks — might see their big league debuts delayed if all that’s needed is, for instance, a spot start. Danks would have been added to the 40-man roster in November under the old rules. Now he won’t be. If he’s pitching well for Oklahoma in May, for example, and the club needs an extra starter to pitch the back half of a doubleheader and go right back down, then Danks is slightly less likely to get that call than he would have under the old CBA. Before this rule change, Danks would have started the 2007 season on his first option; now the only way an option gets used in 2007 is if Texas purchases his contract during the season and then sends him back down for at least 20 days thereafter.

But, of course, if Danks is deemed to be ready at the time and Jon Daniels thinks he gives the Rangers the best chance to win that nightcap, he’ll get the call.

While the Rule 5 Draft will, theoretically, be the weakest in memory because all first-time eligibles have just become ineligible, there will still be minor league players added to rosters in November. The Rangers, for instance, have repeat eligibles like Omar Beltre (who is on the restricted list), A.J. Murray, Nate Gold, Anthony Webster, and Alexi Ogando to consider. And maybe Frostad.

And to drive home the obvious point — the fact that Danks and Diamond and Harrison and a couple others don’t have to be protected this year gives players like Murray, Gold, Webster, Ogando, and (I think) Frostad a much greater chance of landing a roster spot this winter.

The draft-and-follow process has been eliminated, as a signing deadline of August 15 has been established for all draft picks (other than college seniors). As a result, though the draft will still last for 50 rounds, you can bet the days of over 1,500 players chosen are history. This change also means the end of lengthy, drawn-out, Boras-driven holdouts. Three cheers.

I do believe that 2006 draft-and-follows can still be signed, meaning the Rangers would still have a chance to come to terms with lefthander Kevin Angelle, for instance. The 13th-rounder opted out of his commitment to Texas A&M and instead enrolled at San Jacinto Junior College for the 2007 spring season.

While draft bonuses weren’t formally slotted, teams who fail to sign their first- or second-round pick will now get the same pick in the subsequent draft as compensation. (Failing to sign a third-rounder nets a sandwich pick following the next summer’s third round.) This new wrinkle gives teams an incentive to stick to slot and not be held hostage by outlandish demands.

The May 1 issue no longer handicaps Houston as far as Roger Clemens is concerned, as teams are no longer stayed from signing their own free agents that they don’t offer arbitration to.

Pre-arbitration players got a healthy salary increase, as the minimum salary jumps from $327,000 to $380,000 in 2007, $390,000 in 2008, and $400,000 for the final three seasons of the five-year CBA.

Speaking of which, right there is the biggest plus of the new deal — no threat of any labor stoppage for five more years.

Right-handed reliever Jesse Ingram was the lone Rangers farmhand selected to play in the Arizona Fall League’s inaugural “Rising Stars Showcase” All-Star Game, which will played tomorrow at Surprise Stadium. In six innings of AFL work for Grand Canyon, Ingram has permitted two runs (one earned) on just two hits (.105 opponents’ average) and three walks while fanning one. Right-handed-hitting prospects are 1 for 9 off Ingram, lefties are 1 for 10, and he sports an impressive 3.25 groundout-to-flyout rate.

If you’re not on the mailing list, you should be, if for no other reason than to get Mike Hindman’s outstanding off-season daily reports, which include in-depth coverage and analysis from the fall and winter leagues that feature Rangers prospects.

Baseball America’s draft report card is out for the American League West, including the following rankings from the Rangers’ draft crop:

Best pro debut: Danny Ray Herrera, Chad Tracy, Chris Davis
Best athlete: Craig Gentry, Grant Gerrard
Best pure hitter: Tracy
Best raw power: Davis
Fastest runner: Gentry
Best defensive player: Marcus Lemon, Gentry
Best fastball: Kasey Kiker, Brennan Garr, Jake Brigham
Best breaking ball: Kiker
Most intriguing background: Herrera, Tracy, Lemon, Clint Stubbs
Closest to the majors: Herrera, Glenn Swanson
Best late-round pick: Herrera
The one who got away: Brandt Walker, Lance McClain

Nice feature on Herrera by Kent Bonham today at BaseballAnalysts.com.

Orel Hershiser will interview for Oakland’s managerial opening. He’s the first external candidate to be identified.

David Dellucci plans to shop himself on the free agent market. Gary Sheffield won’t be able to, as the Yankees are picking up his $17 million option with possible plans to trade him.

Listening to the L.E.O. disc makes me think I should have been a bigger ELO fan in the 1970s.

Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News reports that when righthander Chris Carpenter was recuperating from shoulder surgery after the 2002 season, the two teams that showed the most interest in signing him were St. Louis and Texas.

What Hagen didn’t note was that, a year before that, at least according to a Dallas Morning News report at the time, Toronto had offered Carpenter to the Rangers in a proposed deal for Carlos Pena, before Texas shipped Pena to Oakland in the six-player trade that brought Gerald Laird here.

MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan points out that the two World Series general managers were runners-up to get the job in Texas once upon a time. Walt Jocketty was beaten out by Doug Melvin after the 1994 season, and Dave Dombrowski lost out to John Hart after the 2001 campaign. It stands to reason that if Jocketty got the mid-’90s job, he might have brought Tony LaRussa here a year into the job.

Next time Norm Hitzges says, as he regularly does, that you should run away whenever Atlanta offers to trade you a young pitcher, you can add Adam Wainwright to your list of impeachment evidence that already included Kevin Millwood and Jason Schmidt and Jason Marquis and Odalis Perez.

I’ll have details about the 2007 Bound Edition in the next few days.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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